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India urges Burma reconciliation
2 Jan 2008 17:18 GMT

By Sunil Raman
BBC News, Delhi

India has urged Burma to launch broad based political reforms and initiate "national reconciliation".

The call came as Burmese Foreign Minister U Nyan Win held talks in Delhi with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

An Indian foreign office spokesman said the prime minister stressed the need for greater urgency in bringing about political reforms.

He said that the process has to include all sections of society.

The spokesman said that included detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all the various ethnic groups.

The two countries are expected to finalise a $100m project on the river Kaladan that will provide a transit route to India's north-eastern states.

The foreign minister is the highest-ranking minister to visit India since September's military crackdown on Buddhist monks in the Burmese capital, Rangoon.

In December India agreed to establish a centre in Rangoon to improve the IT skills of young Burmese people.

The Kaladan project includes the building of waterways and roads.

It will also result in the development of Sitwe port, linking Burma to Mizoram state through the Kaladan river.

India has long tried to get a transit route to its north-eastern states but its plans have always been thwarted by the Bangladeshi government, which has refused to give official backing to the idea.

After that initiative was shelved, India then lobbied the military junta in Rangoon to support its ambitious plan.

At present India spends huge sums of money to transport goods to its north-eastern states.

An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said Mr Mukherjee had expressed his satisfaction at the completion of discussions, and hoped for their "early signing and implementation".

But experts believe that the project might be delayed over concern in a section of the Indian establishment that China might build a rail link to Sitwe port and secure its long-standing desire for a south-western sea base.

India has refused pleas from the West to disengage with the military junta. Instead it has argued that its good relations with Burma gave it leverage to influence its military leaders.